The art of craft of choreography is such an interesting practice of inquiry, trial, error and just plain old problem solving.
After attending this year's American College Dance Festival Association Conference (ACDFA), I feel clear on the needed work for my choreography. I need to dive in, to soak not only my feet but my entire self in the process. I need to walk straight into the waves and allow my clothes and self to be permeated by the creative waters.
I have done this before, but it has been a long time since I have had the luxury of time, space and energy to invest to this degree. Thinking back, the last time I got really soaked in the creative process was over ten years ago, in college and since then I have been progressively taking steps backward, away from the waves, until I now when find myself with only my feet and legs getting wet.
Why have I refrained from the total immersion in the creative pool?
A few reasons, and good ones. Practical ones. That should not just be tossed aside.
1. Choreography for art and choreography for teaching: Part of the reason I continue with my private company Megill & Company (MeCo) is because it is meant to be an outlet for my creative voice that is not affected by my pedagogical goals. When I choreograph for my students, I create dances that have a strong nugget of an idea, but dances that are geared toward the learning process of the student performers. In other words, when I choreograph for my students I practice the craft of choreography. I understand the needs of the dancers and shape the piece around that. I believe this is a noble goal and one that I feel is needed for maximal student learning. If my creative identity gets involved it becomes too messy. But as a result, these pieces, while they get me marginally wet, still leave parts of me dry.
2. Time and energy: So, if I have a clear vision for the way I choreograph for my students, how then does my work with MeCo differ? I have creative freedom, I know that intellectually. But, in my experience I find I am not going as deeply as I want. And, the reason is a lack of time and energy. The creative work I do for my full time teaching position, still taxes me creatively and energetically. So, when it comes to Sunday (today) when I gear up for rehearsal with MeCo, I am often totally spent. I manage to rehearse for 3-4 hours and then am done. The cup has been emptied and I am dry.
3. Fear: I realize that, if I really wanted to change I could. I could make more time for the gooey, amoebic, creative flow to come out. But, something is keeping me from doing that. . . good ol' fear. It is possible that I don't put the time and effort I want to put into the choreographic and rehearsal process, because I am afraid it won't be worth it? Because I am afraid that the piece will not be that good and that I will have failed as a creator despite my efforts? I know that I can create generally interesting, entertaining and semi-provocative pieces without diving into the ocean, so I often choose to play it safe and do just that. It is possible I don't put in the requisite time and energy because it gives me an excuse in the end (especially if it doesn't work out). I'm safe. But, I am also not living up to my full creative potential.
At ACDFA, I saw over 80 dances and many of them used similar movement vocabulary, similar music and similar compositional structures. This is not bad, especially when I look at the experience through the lens of a dance educator. These are needed experiences. But, I feel a pull to do something else. To find my voice, refine it and see what it can really sound like. It might be the song of a nightingale; it might be the hoot of an owl, a caw of the crow, or the call of the morning dove, but it will be better than a fearful mockingbird.
I need to set fear aside and take the leap, off the top diving board, into the pool. Then swim like mad and hope I reach the edge before my limbs give out.